Walgreens to build United States’ first net-zero-energy retail store

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by Shane Henson — March 27, 2013—Walgreens, said to be the largest drug retailing chain in the United States, recently announced plans to build what the company believes will be the nation’s first net-zero-energy retail store, which engineers predict will produce energy equal to or greater than the amount it consumes.

The store will be located in Evanston, Illinois, at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Keeney Street, where demolition of an existing Walgreens store now is underway. The Chicago-area location will allow convenient access for Walgreens engineers based at the company’s headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois to measure the store’s performance for an entire year to determine if the store reaches its goal of net-zero-energy use.

Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce its usage by more than 40 percent through several technologies in the store, including:

  • More than 800 rooftop solar panels and two wind turbines;
  • Geothermal energy obtained by drilling 550 feet into the ground below the store, where temperatures are more constant and can be tapped to heat or cool the store in winter and summer;
  • LED lighting and daylight harvesting;
  • Carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment; and
  • Energy-efficient building materials.

Engineering estimates, which can vary due to factors such as weather, store operations and systems performance, indicate that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity while generating 256,000 kilowatt hours per year, says Walgreens.

Walgreens will attempt to have the store achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status, which is the most stringent “green” designation by the U. S. Green Building Council, and plans to enter the store into the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. The store will be Walgreens’ second showcase project in the Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, Walgreens has committed to a chain-wide 20 percent energy reduction by 2020, the company says.